Judy Keeley has been the lead User Experience (UX) designer at SiteSpect since 2017. In that role, she oversees and designs the user experience for SiteSpect’s platform. This month, I sat down with Judy to learn more about her work, her process, and how to be a great UX designer.
Ruby Perlmutter: What do you do at SiteSpect?
Judy Keeley: I’m the lead UX designer, so I’m responsible for the user experience of SiteSpect’s application. My job is to understand our users’ needs and design product improvements and new capabilities for them that are easy to use, efficient, and powerful.
RP: How did you get into doing UX?
JK: My background is in computer science, and I started off in development which I loved. I actually started programming when I was in the fourth grade, so it’s always been a big interest for me. Over the years I made my way through various other roles — consulting, design, product management — and the one constant was a focus on the user’s perspective. I became more and more aware of how frustrating it is to use poorly designed products and I wanted to take away some of that pain. I decided to focus on UX design, got a master’s, and found my calling. I love how UX design draws on different types of skills — analytical, technical, psychological, and creative — all in one role. It’s challenging work but also very rewarding.
RP: What are some of your guiding principles for UX?
- Understand the user.
- Early on, explore a lot of ideas.
- Keep the design simple.
- Get lots of feedback — from customers, internal users, colleagues, etc.
- Keep iterating — often the best designs come after trying a number of approaches.
- Work towards a long-term vision.
- Find little ways to make a big difference.
- Establish design patterns and styles to maintain consistency throughout the product.
- Stay flexible but focused on the goal — getting a solution out the door involves compromise, but also be willing to push for what’s needed to make it a success.
RP: What’s your design process like?
JK: First I want to understand the problem we’re solving. For larger projects this usually involves research — talking to our customers and hearing from them first hand what they struggle with. Also talking with our professional services team, since they work so closely with our customers and use the product themselves. And of course, our product managers. Then I generate a lot of ideas and try out different approaches, seeing what works best and narrowing down the possibilities. Once I have one or a few design approaches, I’ll refine the design and create an interactive prototype and do usability testing to see how well the design works and where users are confused. Throughout the entire process I’m doing a lot of design reviews to communicate the design and gather feedback from the team. After adding the finishing touches — visual design, specs and icons — I will work closely with the development team to support the implementation by answering questions, filling in any design gaps, and reviewing what’s been built.
RP: What does your day to day at SiteSpect look like?
JK: In my typical day, I work on one or two major projects and a few smaller projects. Part of my day is heads-down design work, where I am working in Axure, a powerful design tool. This might involve anything from creating rough design concepts to constructing sophisticated interactions using logic, events, and animation to figuring out visual details like pixel measurements or colors. When I’m not doing heads-down design work, I’m collaborating with my co-workers — discussing customer needs, evaluating possible approaches, and reviewing implemented solutions. Although there’s a lot of competing priorities to juggle each day, I also make sure to spend some time thinking about the long-term UX vision and how we’ll get there.
(Screen shot of Judy’s work in Axure)
RP: Is there anything upcoming that you’re excited to be working on?
JK: Currently I’m working on a complete redesign of the navigation. It’s really going to transform the entire look and feel of the product and make it much easier and faster for our users to move throughout the application and do their work. We’ve gotten a lot of great input from customers and internal users along the way which has enabled us to really fine tune the solution. This project also paves the way for some exciting changes in the future.
(Screenshot of new navigation)
RP: What’s a fact about yourself that most people find surprising?
JK: I’ve done Mount Washington four different ways — snowboarding down, biking up, hiking up in the winter with crampons, and of course up and down in car.